CNN host Don Lemon was named in a sexual assault lawsuit filed by a Long Island, New York, bartender on Sunday, PEOPLE reports.
According to the suit, Dustin Hice alleges that in July 2018 Lemon shoved his hand down his pants and then “put his hand down the front of his own shorts, and vigorously rubbed his genitalia, removed his hand and shoved his index and middle fingers into [Hice’s] mustache.”
Hice, who works at The Old Stove Pub in Sagaponack, claims he was out with friends at Murf’s Backstreet Tavern in Sag Harbor when he recognized Lemon. After offering to buy the CNN anchor a drink, to which he denied, he said the two didn’t have another encounter until Lemon approached him.
Hice said that is when the assault occurred and also claims the anchor pressed him on his sexual preferences by asking “’Do you like p— or d—?’ as he continued to shove his fingers into Hice’s face with ‘aggression and hostility,” the suit states. Hice also claims he “suffered emotional distress” over the altercation.
A CNN spokesperson responded to the accusations with the following statement, accusing Hice of a past extortion attempt against Lemon and lashing out at the network over social media.
“The plaintiff in this lawsuit has previously displayed a pattern of contempt for CNN on his social media accounts,” the statement, obtained by PEOPLE, read. “This claim follows his unsuccessful threats and demands for an exorbitant amount of money from Don Lemon. Don categorically denies these claims and this matter does not merit any further comment at this time.”
Hice’s lawyer issued a response to PEOPLE over the social media claims, stating the following:
“The assertion that Mr. Hice would put himself through the painful process of filing a sexual assault lawsuit against his attacker all because he doesn’t like a cable TV station is ludicrous. It’s shameful that the CNN attack machine is resorting to victim-blaming in order to detract from Mr. Lemon’s gross sexual misconduct.”
Hice reportedly asked for $1.5M in damages, to which Lemon has refused to pay, a source told PEOPLE.